FAQ - Funk und Umwelt

The most common questions and answers at a glance

Research

What is the current research status regarding mobile communications and health?

The effects of electromagnetic fields on human beings have been researched thoroughly over the last few decades. Based on this comprehensive knowledge, various recognized expert committees have analyzed the research on mobile communications and health and confirmed the limit values several times: The German Commission on Radiological Protection, the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection, the Federal Government, the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS), and the independent scientific EU advisory committee SCENIHR have determined that according to the current research, there is no reason to doubt the safe use of mobile communications when the limit values are adhered to.

Related links to other pages: www.emf-forschungsprogramm.de and www.icnirp.org

Link to BfS brochure: http://www.bfs.de/SharedDocs/Downloads/BfS/DE/broschueren/emf/stth-mobilfunk.pdf?__blob=publicationFile&v=3

www.emf-portal.de

What are the findings of the German Mobile Telecommunication Research Program?

The Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) has summarized the findings as follows: “The results
of the DMF [German Mobile Telecommunications Research Program] have significantly reduced the knowledge gaps and thus improved the database for the risk assessment. A careful review reveals that the findings do not give any cause to question the protective effect of the existing limits." Headed by the German Ministry of the Environment, the German Mobile Telecommunication Research Programme (DMF) was executed in Germany between 2002 and 2008. With a total budget of 17 million euros, the ministry sponsored more than 50 studies to examine the effects of electromagnetic fields. Mobile network operators participated in the project financially, providing a total of 8.5 million euros. Responsibility for technical and administrative implementation lay with the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS). Mobile communications technology is constantly evolving, while scientific methods and capabilities likewise continue to develop. Therefore, further research is expedient and important.

Related links to other pages: www.emf-forschungsprogramm.de

Link to the DMF (through BfS):
http://doris.bfs.de/jspui/bitstream/urn:nbn:de:0221-201108036032/1/DMF_AB-2.pdf

What impact do electromagnetic fields have on human beings?

The electromagnetic fields used by radio communications barely penetrate our bodies. The only proven impact that high-frequency electromagnetic fields have on living creatures is a warming effect. If persons find themselves in a high-frequency electromagnetic field, heat is created in their bodies as the strength of the field increases. In other words, the energy of high-frequency electromagnetic fields is converted into heat in a human body. These are also referred to as the thermal effects of electromagnetic fields.

The physical basis of this thermal effect is known and undisputed. The current exposure limits ensure that the electromagnetic fields occurring in mobile communications are so weak that the temperature of human tissue will not be raised to such an extent that it would represent a health risk.

Current research into mobile communications and health focuses on the biological effects of very weak, low-energy electromagnetic fields below the valid exposure limits. There is controversial discussion among researchers relating to the existence of these non-thermal effects and their potential impact on people's health. Based on the latest research, different expert groups believe that there is no hard evidence for health-related non-thermal effects despite the fact that extensive research has been carried out in this field.

What do the expert committees say about the safety of mobile networks?

The limit values are based on comprehensive research findings. For more than 50 years, scientists – in Germany and at international level – have been analyzing the potential impact of electromagnetic fields on health. Based on this comprehensive knowledge, different recognized expert groups perform continual appraisals of research into mobile communications and health. Up to the present time, all expert groups have been unanimous in their conclusion that the exposure limits guarantee safe application and use of mobile communications technology for all people.

These groups include, for example, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). These have again confirmed the safe use of mobile communications when the limit values are adhered to. The German Commission on Radiological Protection (SSK) comes to the same conclusion: “In agreement with other international committees, it can be determined that the protective concepts underlying the existing limit values are not questioned.”

Recognized expert committees in Sweden, the Netherlands, and Great Britain have again validated the limit values recommended by the ICNIRP on their national levels. The German Federal Government has done this as well: In consideration of the current research results about mobile communications and health, the limit values established in Germany provide sufficient protection.

Where can one find an overview of the current research?

The effects of electromagnetic fields on human beings have been researched thoroughly over the last few decades. The EMF portal of the University of Aachen provides a comprehensive overview of the German and international research. More than 25,000 scientific studies have already been compiled in its database (as of 2017). To a great extent these are dedicated exclusively to the effects of high-frequency and pulsed fields as used by mobile communications. In a few published studies, both areas – high and low frequency – are treated in the same publication. www.emf-portal.de

Related links to other pages: www.emf-forschungsprogramm.de and www.icnirp.org

Link to the DMF (through BfS):
http://doris.bfs.de/jspui/bitstream/urn:nbn:de:0221-201108036032/1/DMF_AB-2.pdf

Radio sites

How is a radio network built?

Building radio infrastructure is a complex, dynamic process in which various factors must be taken into consideration. On request of their customers, Deutsche Funkturm sets up base stations wherever demand is high, where there are gaps in the mobile network, and where the quality of the service needs improvement.

Since every base station in mobile communications can only handle a limited number of calls and transmit a limited volume of data, a large number of base stations is needed in places where many apps are used through the wireless network – particularly in residential areas.

As it sets up the mobile communications network, Deutsche Funkturm collaborates closely with the wireless network operators and local authorities as representatives of the area's residents. The planning and implementation include the following steps: First the operators calculate the optimal position for a new base station within the framework of their overall network concept. Secondly, in accordance with the agreement reached with the leading local associations, the mobile carriers communicate these plans to the local authorities. Thirdly, the parties search for a suitable alternative location that is agreeable to all parties in case the providers and local government have differing views on the chosen site. In this process, Deutsche Funkturm also reviews sites proposed by the local authorities and gives them preferential treatment if they are suitable. In some cases, it may be necessary to obtain planning permission or approval from the historical monuments, nature conservation or aviation authorities.

What are the criteria for selecting sites for radio antennas?

As it sets up the mobile communications network, Deutsche Funkturm collaborates closely with local authorities as representatives of the area's residents. The planning and implementation include the following steps: First the mobile network operator calculates the optimal position for a new base station within the framework of its overall network concept. Then, in accordance with the agreement reached by the mobile carriers and leading local associations, the mobile carrier communicates its plans to the local authorities. Finally, the parties search for a suitable alternative location that is agreeable to all parties in case the providers and local government have differing views on the chosen site. In this process, Deutsche Funkturm also reviews sites proposed by the local authorities and gives them preferential treatment if they are suitable. In some cases, it may be necessary to obtain planning permission or approval from the historical monuments, nature conservation, or aviation authorities.

Does the operation of radio antennas require approval?

Each new radio station and each change in a transmission facility with transmitting power of over 10 watts must be applied for and approved by the German Federal Network Agency. Before the transmissions can start, each mobile communications facility goes through several steps of the site permission procedure. This reliably ensures compliance with the limit values at each of Deutsche Funkturm’s sites.

Why do mobile network transmitters have to be located in residential areas?

Since every base station can only handle a limited number of calls or transmit a limited volume of data, a great number of base stations are needed in places where many people are located – for example, in residential areas. Nowadays there are many options for mobile communication. In addition to cell phones, smartphones and tablets are indispensable in the wireless world. The shorter the distance between one’s mobile device and the mobile service station, the lower the required transmission power of the mobile device as well as the base station. The network operators set up base stations wherever demand is particularly high, where there are gaps in the mobile network, and where the quality of the service needs improvement.

How high are electromagnetic fields in mobile communications in practice?

The mobile radio fields in publicly accessible areas and private homes are far below the legal limit values.

This is also confirmed by measurements carried out since rollout of the new LTE technology. They include the measurements carried out by IMST, the respected Institute of Mobile and Satellite Communication Technology, as well as the measurement commissioned by the Federal Office for Radiation Protection. All measurements lead to one conclusion: Readings at all measurement points were significantly lower than the valid exposure limits – even under extreme conditions (i.e., maximum load) and with additional loads from GSM and UMTS mobile communications facilities.

Related links to other pages:
The (EMF) database of the German Federal Network Agency: http://emf3.bundesnetzagentur.de

Measurement series of the Mobile Communications Information Center (IZMF): www.izmf.de

Measurement series in NRW: https://www.lanuv.nrw.de/landesamt/veroeffentlichungen/publikationen/fachberichte

Measurement series of the Federal Office for Radiation Protection: http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0221-2013041610546

Does the expansion of LTE result in an increase in electromagnetic fields?

After the introduction of LTE, the mobile communications fields in publicly accessible areas and residences are still far below the legal limit values, even if they can increase to a limited degree overall with every new station.

This is also confirmed by measurement series performed since the rollout of the new LTE technology. They include the measurements carried out by IMST, the respected Institute of Mobile and Satellite Communication Technology, as well as the measurement commissioned by the Federal Office for Radiation Protection. All measurements lead to one conclusion: Readings at all measurement points were significantly lower than the valid exposure limits – even under extreme conditions (i.e., maximum load) and with additional loads from GSM and UMTS mobile communications facilities.

Related links to other pages:
The (EMF) database of the German Federal Network Agency: http://emf3.bundesnetzagentur.de

Measurement series of the Mobile Communications Information Center (IZMF): www.izmf.de

Measurement series in NRW: https://www.lanuv.nrw.de/landesamt/veroeffentlichungen/publikationen/fachberichte

Measurement series of the Federal Office for Radiation Protection: http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0221-2013041610546

Where can citizens get information about the mobile network sites in their surroundings?

The EMF database of the German Federal Network Agency is the main source of information for everyone who wants to get information about the electromagnetic fields that are generated at a certain location. In this database, created with the support of all operators, all mobile communications facilities subject to authorization can be found along with the necessary safety setbacks and information about the electromagnetic fields that were measured on site. The database is updated regularly.

Additionally, Deutsche Funkturm and its affiliated group, Deutsche Telekom, provide extensive information and make every effort to quickly and competently clarify all questions about mobile communications technology. Citizens can not only rely on brochures, flyers, and internet information but also contact Deutsche Telekom directly. It has set up an expert hotline (08000852606 – from within Germany) and email address (emvu@telekom.de) for any questions about these specialized topics. It has also established a network of regional contacts for questions about local mobile communications sites by residents and municipalities.

How do the mobile network operators inform citizens and municipalities about planned network expansions?

When building its mobile communications networks, Deutsche Funkturm relies on close cooperation and a constructive dialog with all parties involved. For example, together with the mobile network operators we inform the local governments of our development plans at an early stage and include them in considerations for new locations.

The information exchange is based on two agreements that were already signed by German network operators in 2001: a voluntary commitment towards the Federal Government and the agreement with the municipal umbrella associations.

In these, the mobile carriers promised to undertake a series of measures to improve consumer and health protection, to fund research, and to cooperate with local authorities on the development of mobile communications networks.

The implemented measures were instrumental in toning down the debate about mobile communications and in improving cooperation among all parties involved in the network expansion. This has been confirmed by inspections carried out at regular intervals by independent reviewers. To mark the 10th anniversary of this date in 2011, Germany's carriers and the Federal Government confirmed continuation of the voluntary commitment. These communication processes, established within the framework of this voluntary commitment, entered the 26th Federal Emissions Protection Ordinances (BImSchV) in 2013 and thus received a regulatory confirmation.

As it sets up the mobile communications network, Deutsche Funkturm collaborates closely with the wireless network operators and local authorities as representatives of the area's residents. The planning and implementation include the following steps: First, the operators calculate the optimal position for a new base station within the framework of their overall network concept. Next, in accordance with the agreement reached by the mobile carriers and leading local associations, the mobile carriers communicate their plans to the local authorities. Finally, the parties search for a suitable alternative location that is agreeable to all parties in case the providers and local government have differing views on the chosen site. In this process, Deutsche Funkturm also reviews sites proposed by the local authorities and gives them preferential treatment if they are suitable. In some cases, it may be necessary to obtain planning permission or approval from the historical monuments, nature conservation, or aviation authorities.

Safety

How safe is mobile communication technology?

Strict observance of the valid exposure limits ensures the safe use of mobile communications. The limit values are based on comprehensive research findings. For more than 50 years, scientists – in Germany and at international level – have been analyzing the potential impact of electromagnetic fields on health. The expert committees of the World Health Organization and the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) set recommended limit values and regularly monitor them. To do so, they evaluate the latest research findings on an ongoing basis. In the opinion of these experts, mobile communications are safe and pose no threat to health, provided that the limit values are observed. This was confirmed by the German Commission on Radiological Protection and the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection as well as by the Federal Government and the Federal Office for Radiation Protection.

Is health protection ensured for residents near mobile communications facilities?

Safety through distance – that’s what mobile communications are about. In practice, safety ranges are inferred from the limit values.

It only takes a distance of a few meters from a stationary transmitting and receiving antenna for people to stay there permanently without worries. The required safety distance always depends on the base station’s transmission power, the used antennas, and the broadcast frequency and amounts to a few meters for GSM, UMTS, and LTE. The German Federal Network Agency determines the specific safety distance for each system. Compliance with this safety distance guarantees the reliable protection of the public – especially near the base stations.

Are there limit values for mobile communication technology?

Exposure limits are to protect people's health. For mobile communications there are also limit values based on reliable scientific findings. Compliance with them ensures that humans are not exposed to health risks from the electromagnetic fields generated by mobile applications.

The limit values are based on comprehensive research findings. For more than 50 years, scientists – in Germany and at international level – have been analyzing the potential impact of electromagnetic fields on people’s health. The expert committees of the World Health Organization and the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) set recommended limit values and regularly monitor them. To do so, they evaluate the latest research findings on an ongoing basis. In the opinion of these experts, mobile communications are safe and pose no threat to health, provided that the limit values are observed.

How are the limit values for mobile communication technology determined?

In Germany, the limit values for radio are specified by a legal ordinance by the German Parliament with the agreement of the Federal Council. They are based on guidelines issued by the German Ministry of the Environment (BMU), which takes recommendations by national and international expert committees into account. These groups include, for example, the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), the German Commission on Radiological Protection (SSK), and the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS).

The limit values are part of the German legal system and defined by the 26th regulation of the Federal Emissions Protection Ordinances (26.  BImSchV), which went into effect on 1/1/1997. The limit values were validated again during the amendment of the 26th BImSchV in 2013.

Who checks that the limit values for base stations are complied with in Germany?

The German Federal Network Agency (www.bundesnetzagentur.de) ensures that the limit values for mobile communications are adhered to.

Inspection takes place based on the technical data and construction documents prior to commissioning and each time a technical modification takes place on a mobile communications base station. When all requirements are fulfilled, the Federal Network Agency issues an operating license – the site certificate.

The site certificate defines the areas around every base station that must be kept clear for safety reasons. These are derived from the exposure limits and ensure that people can reside permanently outside the safety area without any risks for their safety. As a rule, the safety clearance around base stations for GSM, UMTS, and LTE is several meters.

As well as issuing a site certificate, the Federal Network Agency checks at irregular intervals and without notice whether mobile communications facilities fulfill the conditions for the operating license.

Can mobile communications antennas influence pacemakers?

Even if individuals have a pacemaker implant, they can still use a mobile device. A minimum safety clearance of 20 centimeters between chest and mobile device is recommended to exclude interference with the pacemaker.

This means that people with pacemakers shouldn’t carry their mobile device in their chest pocket. However, this is merely an additional safety precaution since most pacemakers implanted today are resistant to interference from mobile devices.

Patients with other electronic implants (e.g., insulin pumps) should consult their physicians about the resistance to interference of such devices.

Are additional protective measures required to guarantee health protection?

Strict observance of the exposure limits ensures the safe use and application of mobile communications. An additional safety factor in determining the limit values ensures that even especially sensitive people such as pregnant women, children, sick or older people are protected.

According to statements by recognized expert committees, such as the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) or the German Commission on Radiological Protection (SSK), health protection is ensured for all groups of persons by this high safety factor.

Technology

How do the mobile networks, radio relay services, and broadcasting work?

So that you can use your cell phone to make or receive phone calls wherever you are, your smartphone, tablet, and phone need a good connection to a base station in the near vicinity.

Each cell phone, smartphone, and mobile tablet as well as each base station has a transmitter as well as a receiver. High-frequency electromagnetic fields (EMF) are needed to transmit information between a mobile device and a base station. The information is then usually forwarded between base stations and between a base station and the fixed network over copper cables, fiber optic cables, or radio relays.

To ensure high-quality coverage, mobile communications requires many base stations. Each base station can only handle a certain number of calls and transmit a certain volume of data. It therefore only serves a narrowly defined area (known as the radio cell). An increasing number of users and increasing data rates therefore require a denser mobile communications network, i.e., more base stations.

Radio relays refer to the transmission of messages between two raised points via electromagnetic waves. This requires a clear view between the transmitting and receiving antennas. Forests, high buildings, and the like interfere with the spread of the signals. Radio relays are operated for the connection of mobile communication and broadcast stations and used for the flexible and economical broadband connection of buildings without fiberglass connections. They therefore replace cable connections. A radio relay connection can also serve as an independent secondary means to increase reliability or as a temporary transmission path, for example for last-minute or short-term uses.

Broadcast refers to the transmission of radio and TV to the public. It involves the transmission from one point in all directions. The higher the tower or mast and the transmission power is, the larger is the covered area. The program is transmitted by a broadcast station; it is received by mobile or stationary receivers such as a radio, TV, laptop, or smartphone.

What do GSM, UMTS, LTE, DAB, DVB-T2, and VHF mean?

GSM: Global System for Mobile Communication. Second-generation, international, fully digital standard for mobile communications, which makes it possible to make mobile phone calls across national boundaries. 

UMTS: Universal Mobile Telecommunications System, third-generation mobile communications standard. UMTS makes it possible to achieve higher data transmission rates than in the conventional GSM network. The mobile internet was introduced to mobile communications with UMTS.

LTE: Long Term Evolution. Fourth-generation mobile communications standard. LTE is based on the transmission process also used by digital broadcast, for example. With significantly higher data transmission rates than UMTS, LTE is the basis for mobile broadband internet.

5G: Mobile communications standard of the 5th generation, which is expected to be introduced in 2020. 5G will significantly increase the current data transmission rates even further, reduce the response time (latency), and can connect many billions of devices and sensors with each other.

DAB: Digital Audio Broadcasting. A digital transmission standard for the terrestrial broadcast of digital radio. It is suitable for frequencies ranging from 30 MHz to 3 GHz and has been available in Germany since 1995. The simultaneous relaunch of the improved DAB+ standard took place in 2011. The use of DAB/DAB+ requires an end device compatible with DAB(+)

DVB-T2: Digital Video Broadcasting – Terrestrial. The frequencies lie in the UHF range from 470 to 700 MHz. The current frequency range reaches up to 778 MHz, but the 700-MHz band will soon require a frequency change. Reception requires a receiving device with an integrated DVB-T2 receiver module (tuner) or a separate receiver module.

VHF: Very High Frequency. Refers to the now globally distributed analog radio transmission to receive radio programs in stereo. The frequency range extends from 87.5 to 108.0 MHz and is very well received almost anywhere with traditional radio receivers.

The transmission capacity of mobile communications antennas normally lies between 10 and 100 watts.

Base stations installed by Deutsche Funkturm in the GSM network usually achieve transmission capacities of 4 to 16 watts per frequency channel. The number of frequency channels for a GSM base station depends on the demand for phone calls and data transmission in a radio cell and lies between 2 and 10 channels. UMTS facilities normally have 1 or 2 frequency channels, each with a maximum transmission capacity of 20 watts. In the case of LTE with 1 or 2 frequency channels, the transmission capacity is up to 40 watts.

The digital radio relay systems offer transmission rates from 2 MBit/s to 8 x 155 MBit/s. The typical transmission power of radio relay systems is 100 mW. Depending on the radio relay frequency and topographic condition, this can bridge distances up to 70 km.

VHF broadcast has a transmission power ranging from 10 W to 10 kW. The coverage of VHF is up to 100 km.

Can mobile communications disrupt other electrical appliances?

Electronic appliances such as TV sets, radios, and mobile devices can interfere with each other and thus cause disruptions. However, most of the problems reported are barely noticeable and do not impair the device's functioning. One example is interference in a radio loudspeaker when someone standing close to the radio uses a cell phone to make a call.

To prevent this, electrical and electronic devices must meet the requirements of the electromagnetic compatibility standard (EMC). These are defined in the European Union's EMC Directive and, in Germany, by EMC legislation.

The cell phones and smartphones distributed by wireless providers and, just like the applied mobile communications technology, meet the legal and normative conditions regarding emitted interference and interference immunity. If interferences through mobile devices nonetheless occur in TVs, radios, remote controls, or other devices, it is possible to request help from the consumer services of the German Federal Network Agency at (04821) 895-555 or via email at funkstoerungen@bnetza.de.